About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Date started: October 2015
Website: www.prisonvoicemail.com
Twitter: @PrisonVoicemail
Location: Norwich, East Anglia

This prison communications start-up is using simple technology to keep prisoners and their families connected - a radical approach that is having a profoundly positive impact on the wellbeing and mental health of this vulnerable demographic.

Founders Kieran Ball and Alex Redston were inspired to act after noticing that limited phone rights and missed calls increased stress levels for both prisoners and their families. Existing services were particularly detrimental to families with young children who rarely got to speak to each other.

Motivated by the link between strong family ties and reduced reoffending, they set to work innovating the tech to improve both communication and mental health. The solution was deceptively simple: an instant and convenient app linked to authorised phone numbers, where subscribers can leave and listen to messages at any time.

Prison Voicemail founders

Founders Kieran Ball and Alex Redston. Credit: Open to Export.

The service is now available in 87 per cent of prisons in England and Wales, with plans to build the service across the UK. Landlines being installed in cells have increased uptake of Prison Voicemail, while a Lincoln University research study has vindicated its positive impact, with 96 per cent of prisoners saying it has made their time inside easier.